Monday, July 01, 2013

Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail: A Review of Linux’s Newest Platform

Ubuntu’s newest iteration – 13.04 “Raring Ringtail,” released in late April – is widely reported to be the best Linux OS to date.  Unlike the last few updates, 13.04 has made few fundamental changes to the platform.  Instead, it brings much-needed performance boosts to increase the system’s power and speed, while polishing the rough edges from earlier editions.  Here are some of the most important changes:
Improved Window “Snap”
Window snapping is a user-friendly tool that allows multiple windows to be displayed without overlapping or having to click-and-drag.  The new animation included in Ubuntu 13.04 includes a changed appearance of the window when it is about to snap, showing a transparent, orange copy of the original window in its new potential location.  This makes the time-saving organizational tool even more effective and efficient.
New Lenses
The Unity Dash, allowing users to aggregate alike programs, received an overhaul that includes a Photos lens and a Social lens.  The Photos lens can search through images in online accounts or imported directly onto the computer, greatly simplifying the process of tracking down photos.  The Social lens allows users to connect to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other platforms directly from the dashboard. 
Pure, Raw Speed
Ubuntu’s past editions have been decried as slow and resource-hungry, and there was certainly some truth to those claims.  However, last October programmers decided to tweak Ubuntu’s core by using a mobile device (specifically, Google’s Nexus 7 tablet) as a reference point.  This allowed them to address CPU, RAM, and power usage issues that had plagued Ubuntu in the past.  The result?  A smooth and snappy experience, with lightning fast startup and shutdown speeds, that makes Ubuntu 13.04 one of the fastest platforms on the market. 
Support Applications
Ubuntu 13.04 utilizes LibreOffice 4.0 for its office suite, and includes Firefox 20 for web browsing and Thunderbird 17 for email.  For those interested in other applications – Chrome and Evolution, for example – these apps are available using the Ubuntu Software Center.  There have been some reported issues installing Chrome on 13.04; this glitch is expected to be fixed with the next Chrome update.
Also, a major complaint about Linux in the past has been the lack of available games.  Ubuntu has partnered with Steam to produce games for the platform, and the number of available games has skyrocketed. 
The Unity desktop environment, prone to bugs and crashes in the past, received a pretty comprehensive overhaul from the Canonical developers.  As a consequence, the software is much more stable and is no longer plagued by “paper cut” bugs.
So… Is it Worth It?
The release, while not heavy on new features, positions Ubuntu nicely for future release on smartphones, tablets, and TVs.  For fans of the Linux platform, the upgrade to Ubuntu 13.04 is definitely worth it.  With improved speed and polished features, Ubuntu 13.04 is by far the best platform yet.  And for those who haven’t yet switched to Ubuntu system, this latest release proves itself to be the most compelling reason to date. 

Sara Collins is a writer for NerdWallet, a site that answers readers’ personal finance questions, like, “How should I be planning for my child’s college education?”